Information, Answers & Reviews

Rosie Nominees and Supernatural Fiction

ISBN: 
1594744769

If you are one of the few people who haven’t read this Rosie nominated book yet, do so as soon as possible!  Filled with creepy black and white photos, this mesmerizing story centers on sixteen-year old-Jacob Portman and the events following the mysterious death of his grandfather.  To help him overcome his grief, Jacob travels with his father to a remote island off the coast of Wales to find answers about his grandfather’s childhood.  He discovers much more than he bargained for when he finds a “time loop” from 1940 where the children from his grandfather’s stories hide from the rest of the world.  These children are not ordinary children; each has a unique special talent that makes them a target for a group of monsters intent of world domination.  Soon enough, Jacob learns about his grandfather’s past and discovers that he has inherited his own special talent that has placed him and his new friends in grave danger.

If you read the book and are interested in looking at some more bizarre photographs; the author, Ransom Riggs published a collection of vintage photographs called Talking Pictures: Images and Messages rescued from the past. Read more »

Kumare

Kumare is a 2011 documentary about a guy from New Jersey who tries to discover the meaning of spirituality. His methods of doing so are very questionable and I disagree with them but this documentary is redeemed in the end because Vikram tells his followers the truth. Vikram dresses up as an Indian Guru and cultivates a cult following. He does not reveal to his followers that he is a fake until after he leaves town. In the end both Vikram and his followers learn that happiness comes from within. The library has one copy of this on dvd.

The Perfect Family Until--

ISBN: 
9781400065745

When this compelling novel starts, Mary Beth Lathem’s biggest problem is taking sass from her truculent teenaged daughter, Ruby. The narrative starts at the beginning of Mary Beth’s busy day as she goes through the house waking up her three children, the eldest daughter and two twins, Alex and Max. Mary Beth owns a landscape business but soon you can tell that her family is the center of her life and passions. 

Alex is a soccer jock, immensely talented and popular while Max, his fraternal twin, is a computer nerd with social anxiety problems.  Glen, Mary Beth’s husband, is an extremely practical and thoroughly unromantic eye doctor--solid as hardwood--though Mary Beth is not necessarily aware of that. Read more »

Pick up a Book of Poetry

ISBN: 
9780393086447

If you’re new to poetry and find it difficult, you may want to try the work of Gerald Stern. At eighty-eight, he’s one of the grand masters of poetry still composing poems. He’s won lots of awards but writes in understandable language about everyday things: travel, frogs, New York, cafeteria (spelled with a k as are all of the c words in this poem), his childhood, flowers, and love.  What I like about his latest collection In Beauty Bright and all of his work is that he celebrates living in an almost ecstatic way--most of his poems could be songs. Check out these lines: “Like fools we waited to hear the tomatoes;  we knew / what greenness means to the vine.” or “Take a dog to the vet’s, he knows what you’re doing, / a cat becomes a muscle, she leaps from your arms.”

You can tell from his work that he’s the kind of quirky writer that does weird things on occasion to discover his latest poem; for instance, “Day of Grief” begins: “I was forcing a wasp to the top of a window / where there was some sky and there were tiger lilies…” Another insect poem starts this way, “I lost my rage while helping a beetle recover / and stood there with precision, balancing / grass with stone.”

And see how immediate and tactile this poem simply titled “Love” is, “I loved your sweet neck but I loved your shoulder blades more / and wondered whether I should kiss your cheek first / or your hair.” Read more »

The World Ends.... Again!

ISBN: 
025192129650

Quite a while ago I posted about the movie "Melancholia," a film about the end of the world and how people reacted to the knowledge that not only their lives would end, but also the lives of everyone else on the planet. Recently I watched the film "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World." As the title suggests this is another film about the end of the world. The premise is almost exactly the same; what effect would knowing you and your world will end in a matter of days have upon you. In fact these movies could almost be two episodes of the same movie. "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" stars Steve Carell as Dodge and Keira Knightly as Penny two individuals traveling together for very different reasons. Dodge is seeking his old high school sweetheart to spend his last days with. Penny just wants to be with her family. Read more »

Voodoo, Blues, and Wandering after the Great Flood

ISBN: 
9780062225009

This first novel by an Asian-American has already created a lot of buzz.  First, it has an intriguing topic: Mississippi after the great flood of 1927. Secondly: the main characters are compelling--they are very poor African-Americans under the yoke of the white inhabitants. Finally, it shows exquisite writing.  William Ferris said, “Bill Cheng embraces the region’s 1927 flood, voodoo, blues, and race with breathtakingly beautiful prose.”

Southern Cross the Dog starts with a group of black children playing “Little Sally Water” in the rain—the rain that caused the great flood. Soon the story focuses on the character of Robert, the second born child of Etta and Ellis. Before long, you discover that his family has just suffered an immense tragedy. White vigilantes had hung the oldest son Billy for loving a white girl.

Bill Cheng captures the chaos and hardship after the flood. Dead bodies floated past.  Men with boats offered rides but also stole the food and valuable keepsakes of the displaced families. Robert’s family began this journey together, but ended up in a refugee camp. Because Etta has lost her mind over Billy’s death, she needs constant care. Ellis makes a difficult decision: to send young Robert off with someone to work in another town. Ellis thinks this is the only way all three of them will survive but he mistakenly does not tell his son why he is sending him away. Read more »

Rosie Nominations and Historical YA Fiction

Between Shades of GrayQuick! Name one thing you know about the Crimean War! Nothing? Florence Nightingale maybe?

Brief history lesson: The Crimean War was fought between Russia and an alliance of France and England over the declining Ottoman Empire in what is now part of the Ukraine.  This war pre-dates World War I, and is often considered as the first modern war. It is also famous for Florence Nightingale who drastically improved nursing practices while caring for wounded British soldiers.

Sounds exciting, right?  Ok, maybe not the most promising backdrop for a YA book, but In the Shadow of the Lamp has enough to keep you turning pages. Molly has been framed for theft and fired from her job as a parlor maid at a fancy London home. She decides to sneak her way onto a ship headed east when she hears that Miss Nightingale is looking for nurses. Even though she doesn’t have any training, Molly is headstrong and is willing to work hard. She is found out by Miss Nightingale, but her hard work and natural inclinations at nursing and caring for people proves her worthy. In fact, Molly's abilities are even a bit magical. The magical elements aren't played up too much and Molly is a likeable character as she struggles with defining her future, both professionally and personally. Whether during the Crimean War or now, trying to figure your way in the world is a timeless endeavor. Read more »

The Adventures of Superman

Adventures of Superman

My last posting regarding the death of “The Adventures of Superman” star George Reeves resulted in my reminiscing about my childhood love of this particular Superman/Clark Kent.  “The Adventures of Superman” is an interesting mix of adventure and plain silliness.   The result is that there is something for almost everyone.  The series started out as an adventure series aimed more at adults than children.  In the beginning the series had an almost film noir quality about it; there were real mysteries and realistic (for the time) dangers.  Superman may have saved the day, but the stories themselves would have fit well in almost any of the detective shows of the era.    If you like a good story and don’t mind the cheesy special effects of the time, check out the first season of “The Adventures of Superman.”  Once you get past the Superman origins episode you will find some good half hour mysteries. Read more »

Books Plus June

WildJoin us on Sunday at Books Plus to discuss Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed at 2:00 p.m.

This memoir/adventure book recalls Cheryl's odyssey on the longest and most difficult of North America's long-distance hiking trails. With no experience and little planning, she encounters immense heat, rattlers, bears, cliffs, and raging snowstorms. But her journey is internal as well as external. Shortly before leaving her mother died and her marriage broke apart. This book describes what she learned about hiking, nature, and particularly herself during this journey.

More information about upcoming Books Plus discussions below. Read more »

Parenthood, Birth, and Other Transformations

ISBN: 
9781594487958

In A Guide to Being Born, Ausubel’s narrative voice is strong and unique.  She takes chances in her fiction yet unlike some modern authors, she still includes distinct narrative threads. You can tell she is an independent-minded author just from the layout of her collection--four sections titled: Birth, Gestation, Conception, and Love. Notice the order of her subjects, the reverse of what you might expect.

I fell in love with the first story “Safe Passage.” It begins this way, “The Grandmothers—dozens of them—find themselves at sea.” This boat full of older women find themselves adrift with hundreds of crates; they open them to see if any of the items will allow them to save themselves. The story is funny, whimsical, and fantastical all at once. Plus, it conceals a deeper level that you won’t discover right away. The grandmothers find shipping containers full of yellow roses, and they fill their arms with them despite the fact that the thorns leave blood tracks on their hands.

Another fantasy-rich story is “Chest of Drawers.” Toward the end of the wife’s pregnancy, her husband suddenly grows live drawers on his chest, a problem that necessitates many medical appointments and tests. Yet, the compartments come in handy for carrying things such as his wife’s lipstick and a bunch of tiny diversity dolls. Read more »

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